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Building and business name in frame for arts

John Hindmarsh with Arthur Streeton's <i>Golden Harvest</i> at the National Gallery of Australia.

John Hindmarsh with Arthur Streeton's Golden Harvest at the National Gallery of Australia. Photo: Lannon Harley

He made his mark with cranes and concrete, now John Hindmarsh is immersed in the arts, and leading the next growth phase in Canberra's cultural development.

Mr Hindmarsh's contributions to building and business have been recognised in the Australia Day Honours with a Member of the Order of Australia award.

He said he was thrilled to receive the honour in the city's centenary year.

Now chairman of the Cultural Facilities Corporation, he's excited about developing a new precinct for Civic Square and the Canberra Theatre.

''That theatre was built in 1974, when we had a population of 170,000. We have 370,000 now, we are looking at what might be the future direction of that precinct, the whole of Civic Square, the CMAG (Canberra Museum and Gallery),'' he said.

''Facilities for CMAG are not as good as they should be, the theatre is inadequate, a lot of shows that we could be putting on can't be, because it's too small.''

As chairman and a long-term member of the National Gallery of Australia Foundation, he spends 50 per cent of his time on the arts, which he believes Canberra is more focused on than other populations in Australia.

He said Canberra's growth was taking a breather after amazing strides as a community and in construction, but its most prosperous years lay ahead.

''I see a couple of years of pause after a terrific 15 years. I can't see the city being turned back,'' he said.

In the last boom and ones preceding it the company he founded from a room in his home has built thousands of apartments, developed retirement villages and car parks, kicked off joint ventures, branched out to China, the US and Vietnam and built exceptional projects including the John Curtin School of Medical Research at the ANU.

''The other building that I actually feel very fond of is the little Playhouse [in Civic Square] which we built quite a number of years ago,'' he said.

''It is an absolute vignette of a performing arts centre.

''In a way that has become more of my passion. I have been under pressure on occasions to move our business headquarters away from Canberra because we're working internationally and pretty well all over Australia.''

In his university days Mr Hindmarsh switched from architecture to building, worked in the jungles of Papua New Guinea building a military training facility, and later came to Canberra and fell in love with the place.

Mr Hindmarsh and his wife Rosanna's three children have left Canberra. They also have seven grandchildren.

His leadership is widespread, and includes Australian Capital Ventures, which has a joint venture with the ACT government in the Canberra Business Development Fund.

''I think we have got probably two out of two or three out of 12 [successes]. Our most exciting prospect is a joint venture with the CSIRO on a product called BarleyMax,'' he said.

Used as a high-fibre, low-GI ingredient in breakfast cereals and health bars, its developers are looking to expand into Europe, American and South Africa.

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